When photographer Matt Cosby and his wife relocated full-time to the Vineyard in 2019, he couldn’t possibly have realized that his move would add a further distinction to his already impressive career. It was actually the challenges of Island living that led to his getting a photo featured on the cover of the New York Times.
In January of last year, with a major winter storm predicted, Cosby was asked by the editors of the NY Times to take some shots around the Cape. The request wasn’t unusual. Cosby had been called upon by the paper before to provide work as a freelancer. This time bad luck turned to good when Cosby found himself trapped on the Island due to ferry cancellations and, instead of wandering the mainland in search of photo ops, he drove around the Vineyard. One of the shots he submitted was a charming scene of snow falling in front of the lighted windows of the store Craftworks on Circuit Ave. A bundled-up pedestrian leads two dogs, equally well protected against the storm, past the lit-up windows, where a school of colorful stained glass fish swim across the entire length and breadth of the storefront.
“I woke up the next morning, and had an email that said my picture was on A1,” recalls Cosby. Not only had the photo made the front page of the paper, but it was the featured photo — above the fold.
Now that iconic image, along with five others by the photographer, is hanging at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital as part of the facility’s impressive collection of work by hundreds of local artists. Among those selected by curator Monina von Opel are the Oak Bluffs snowy scene, as well as two others from the Vineyard — one of the road to Lobsterville, and the other taken on the ferry, with a historic tall ship visible through a window.
The other three images come from Cosby’s extensive travels. These include a mariachi trumpet player in Mexico, pigeons on the railing of the Santa Monica Pier, and an American flag flying in front of an adobe-fronted municipal building in Texas.
Cosby forged a relationship with the NYT six years ago, and has had many photos published by that venerable newspaper since then. His work has also been featured in National Geographic, Rolling Stone, and Huffington Post, among other publications. He has also toured all over the country with numerous bands in the capacity of official photographer.
The story of how Cosby forged a relationship with the NY Times is a lesson in karma. “In 2016, I donated a kidney to my dad,” recalls the photographer, who was living in Maine at the time. “I had to take three months off from work. In the freelance world you have to always look busy. I was feeling pretty down about work, so one day I decided to just email a few publications. At least I could feel good about being proactive. I sent an email to an editor at the Times saying that I was a photographer working in New England. Within five minutes I got an email back asking me to come to New York the next weekend to meet with her.”
Before he established himself as a photographer, Cosby enjoyed a previous successful career in the arts. Fresh out of high school, his alt rock band Jeremiah Freed was signed to Universal Records. After three recordings and years of touring, things started to slow down for the band, and Crosby decided he needed to consider other pursuits. He found himself inspired by the photographer who shot one of the band’s album covers. “I got to see him work,” says Cosby. “In the back of my mind, I thought I’d love to try photography. It was the only class I got an A-plus in in high school.”
He attended an art school in Maine. During his senior year, Cosby’s work attracted the attention of an editor from Maine magazine, who offered him an assignment. That first professional job jump-started a long relationship with the magazine, and launched Cosby’s freelance career.
Having established himself on the Vineyard, Cosby is truly enjoying spending time capturing the people and overlooked places on the Island. “I’m so attracted to photographing people,” he says. “I love to hear their stories. I want people to open up and not be intimidated at first. I don’t even show them I have the camera until I’ve chatted with them for a while.
“I feel like I’m part therapist,” he adds. “I want to hear what gets people out of bed in the morning. What brings them joy. I’m not particularly interested in shooting typical Vineyard scenes. I’m more into the quiet stuff, the everyday stuff that’s not always photographed.”
This past winter, Cosby traveled farther afield to capture some of the quieter, sometimes quirky corners of the U.S. He took a road trip from Boston to LA, following a very circuitous route in order to check out some remote and interesting sights. These included a Christmas-themed hotel in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., and scenes around Roswell, N.M., of UFO sighting fame.
“The road trip was so much fun,” says Cosby, who plans to curate the thousands of images he captured along the way. “I’ve spent a lot of time pointing my camera at things that someone else has asked me to shoot. Now I want to go out into the world and react to things that draw my own attention.” With his unique eye and sense of humor, it seems like Cosby already has the makings of a great coffee table book or a gallery exhibit.